So why am I starting this blog? Is it because I’ve mistaken the world for somebody who cares about my every thought and action? Do I blatantly want to promote Flarestack Poets, Poetry Bites , Making Poetry and myself? Could it be that a Facebook status is just not big enough to contain someone as opinionated as I am? Is it because, for the fourth time, I didn’t become Birmingham Poet Laureate but I still want to start the blog celebrating Birmingham poetry that was part of my pitch? Am I trying to sell the jewellery I make? It might well be because September Poetry Bites was one of the greatest nights of poetry I’ve ever experienced, and I want to tell people about it. Or perhaps it’s because four West Midlands teams are in the Premier League and the Baggies have reached fourth place but the ‘experts’ on Match of the Day still speak of only Manchester and London teams with reverence and awe.
Most likely, it’s about all of those things, but the actual trigger was reading the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon (which I got from the Oxfam Book Shop in Kings Heath). Things generally outlast thoughts, but just occasionally, someone speaks to us across a thousand years and a couple of continents. Sei Shonagon was blessed with an abundance of paper on which to record her observations of the Japanese court and her views on just about everything (she was almost as opinionated as I am). Reading her words, translated by Ivan Morris to sound not unlike those of a character from Jane Austen, I thought I’d take a shot at writing for now and hoping posterity might catch a few scraps. I once wrote a story set in a dystopian future, in which a world war had consisted just of the destruction of the internet, so that subsequent generations sought to reconstruct a fabled golden age out of the few fragments that could be saved. How wonderful would it be to be among those fragments? And the internet is as plentiful for us as paper was for Sei Shonagon. So this is my pillow book. And it won’t all be about poetry.
What’s a Brummagem screwdriver, then? According to Roy Fisher, it’s something like a clawhammer that you use to drive in a screw when you haven’t got a screwdriver, a nail or the will to go looking. ‘Birmingham’s what I think with,’ Fisher said. ‘It’s not made for that sort of job, but it’s what they gave me.’ Birmingham’s what I think with too, so while this isn’t all about Birmingham, it’s all filtered through my West Midlands consciousness. Or Greater West Midlands, wherever that is, except that everything about the West Midlands is greater than most other places. That doesn’t mean that readers and contributors have to come from that geographical region. If you think with a Brummagem screwdriver, you’re eligible for citizenship of the Greater West Midlands of the heart. I can’t promise to keep this going with any regularity, but I do intend occasionally to feature information about events, achievements and perhaps a few poems. If you want to submit anything, contact me on email@example.com